JimmyBowenandSantaFe

Rick
Briggs

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Rick
Briggs

Nashville
,
Some musical artists fit “industry”-consigned categories neatly; some don’t. “I have used material from outside traditional bluegrass and stacked harmonies with me singing the top part for a long time,” Jimmy Bowen says of the long running tenure of Jimmy Bowen & Sante Fe, “so what we’re doing now isn’t all that different.” “Now” is essentially different in direction and instrumentation, moving closer to a country core established by the Eagles and not overly used since, with keyboards and electric guitar building a stronger presence. “Now” is not different in the mindset of material that is “not beer drinking songs.” It’s not VERY much different in the personnel of Santa Fe: “the banjo player also plays keyboards and we’re probably gonna add another guitar player to give us more of an electric sound. Looks like we might be having nine people on stage,” he laughs, “which is a strain on payroll but it pays off in the music.” His confidence in the direction shift has actually been boosted by the audiences of the bluegrass festivals that are the mainstay of that genre. “Some of the promoters complained that we didn’t sound as traditional as they prefer,” Jimmy relates, “but the audiences loved it. We’ve been doing Little River Band Songs and it just made sense to just keep on moving in this direction. I have enormous respect for Bill Monroe and Jimmy Martin and the other bluegrass pioneers; I just don’t happen to sing like them and my most important job is to entertain the audience. As long as they enjoy the music, it really doesn’t matter where the songs come from.” Moving to Nashville from his native Charlotte, North Carolina, a while back, Jimmy has maintained a professional continuity that renders a list of people he has worked with and for and has shared stages with as virtually any list of who has been active over the past two decades. “I’ve been very fortunate to make my living playing music,” he confirms, “and I just want to keep doing that by playing music that is best for ME to play.” A built-in source of fun for Jimmy Bowen has been his sharing the name of the legendary recording producer. “The name thing has always come up from time to time,” he chuckles, “but the closer I get into country circles and away from bluegrass, it comes up more and more. At MerleFest this year, it came up a LOT. I was on the show with Elvis Costello, Pam Tillis, the Dirt Band, and Roy Clark, who are not bluegrass acts, as well as Alison Krauss, Marty Raybon, Marty Stuart, and Vince Gill, who are pretty well associcated with bluegrass. I’d introduce myself to somebody and would be asked, ‘Are you THE Jimmy Bowen?’ I would answer, ‘It depends on your definition of “THE”!’ I’m THE Jimmy Bowen standing right here.” Each situation is different, but Jimmy admits to a certain amount of game playing on the name topic, all in good fun. “The people who would need to know DO know,” he qualifies, “but some people are fascinated by fame and want to know if I’m related to THE Jimmy Bowen.” Well, I really AM a junior, so I say ‘I’m the junior in the family.’ It’s amazing how some people respond. I have a blast with it.” Having a blast in life is pretty much routine for “this” Jimmy Bowen. “I feel that if our audience is seeing that we’re having a good time, they’re likely to have a good time and enjoy the music, no matter how close we are to the traditions.”

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